February 15, 2024

❤️‍🔥 The Post-Valentine's Day Newsletter

ChatGPT—tie together the Super Bowl, Valentine's Day, and construction

Hey there,

Happy belated Valentine's Day and welcome to the 2024 edition of The SLAB—the construction industry's only newsletter (no need to fact check this). If you've been a Slab-head* for a while, you know that construction-themed AI creations of pop culture are nothing new. In case you were wondering, there were header image options that more closely resembled Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift. The image we went with was the only one—shockingly—that put a hard hat on the Taylor dupe no matter how much we prompted it to do so. It was as if ChatGPT preferred not to mess with AI Taylor's hair, like a stubbornly practical AI hairstylist. But this one time, ChatGPT flinched. The lesson, as always: just keep relentlessly prompting an AI and you'll eventually get what you want.

In other important news, the Buildr team participated in a virtual team building activity this week that consisted of a paint-by-numbers.

Here were some of the highlights:

While we'd like to try and convince you that the incomplete nature of some of these paintings were abstract artistic decisions, you can chalk it up to a short time block that restricted completion for most of our artists.

Just a note if you're thinking of trying painting as a team bonding activity at your workplace: acrylic paint in such close proximity to keyboards isn't recommended unless you remember to keep your Office Supply Request form also in close proximity.


📉 January's planning stats show little momentum...

From statistics issued last week by Dodge Construction Network, January's numbers rose 0.1% in January, a near flatline caused by commercial planning falling 1% and institutional planning rising 2.1%. Slowing warehouse planning knocked commercial while education and healthcare supported institutional. Some things to note:

  • 15 projects valued at $100mm or more entered planning in January.

  • Largest commercial: $200mm renovation of the Magnolia Hotel in Dallas, TX.

  • Largest institutional: $169mm Microsoft Data Center in Leesburg, VA.

The Dodge Momentum Index (DMI) is a stat that leads construction spending for nonresidential buildings by a full year. As far as momentum goes, a 0.1% shift implies, you guessed it, not very much momentum. But commercial and institutional planning playing tug of war is nothing new; dating back to this time last year, non-res construction's DMI is down 3% (-12% commercial +15% institutional).

🔨 Here's the Thing

Momentum is tied to interest rates and right now both are staying put. Last year, many folks thought the Fed would cut rates in March '24, but that's looking extremely unlikely. In spite of lower gas prices (-3.3%) and a strong job market (+350,000 jobs in January), still-too-high inflation is what the Fed mostly looks at when it comes to slashing interest rates that have stayed 5.25-5.5% since July. It now appears that June is the new likeliest month that the Fed will cut rates. But that could push to September according to some. This feels like a stubborn cough that just won't go away.

No matter what, 2025 has promising market conditions, meaning commercial planning in the second half of this year expects to balloon. Mo' promise, mo' momentum.

"I keep gettin' older and the Fed keeps interest the same rate."

💬 Contractor Quote

“Divergent trends between commercial and institutional planning continued in January, nullifying any growth on the overall Momentum Index. Nevertheless, lending standards begun to loosen in January and the Fed is expected to begin cutting rates in the back half of the year. With this in mind, momentum should resume in commercial activity throughout 2024 as owners and developers gain confidence in market conditions for 2025."

—Sarah Martin, Associate Director of Forecasting for Dodge Construction Network

⚡️ Punch List

Procore: Your business is diversified, why your tech stack shouldn’t be (blog)

Buildr: Building a more informed future during preconstruction (blog)

ABC: AI Guide for contractors (resource)

Buildr: Why the New Year is the best time to switch CRMs (blog)

Construction Exec: The 13 trends for construction marketing in 2024. (blog)

Buildr: 5 reasons to use Buildr’s mobile app (blog)

Construction Dive: 2024's top construction events (conferences)

The Preconstruction Podcast: Discussing Advancing Preconstruction (podcast)

The B1M: Top 10 construction projects completing in 2024 (video)


Reading about ominous tech news in every Consumables section

Reading about ominous tech news in every Consumables section

Where credit is due: There's a new dating app that matches people based on their credit score, because it wouldn't be a Consumables section without a piece of news that confirms we're living in an episode of Black Mirror. (tech)

Real deal: In a world that feels like it'll soon be inundated with deepfakes, Adobe's leading a content validity initiative to find criteria that verifies photos and videos are real following a photography contest winner admitting they just used AI. (AI)

Nerd 'round the world: In what could be the tech world equivalent to Franz Ferdinand's assassination igniting WWI, Mark Zuckerberg just said the Meta Quest 3 is better than Apple's Vision Pro headset. Your move, Apple. (tech)

Joint custody: Does cracking your knuckles cause arthritis? Here are 9 busted myths about cracking your joints. (blog)

Superb: Thanks in part to the star power of the real version of the couple in our header image, last weekend's Super Bowl was apparently the most watched thing of all time. Here are the commercial highlights and lowlights. (Super Bowl)

Some people want it all: During the Halftime show, Alicia Keys' voice cracked right when she started singing which was edited out for all future viewings of the performance. (Super Bowl)

The Last Four of Us: We're so inundated with Marvel at this point that there's very little Marvel news that could get us to blink—hold on a second! Pedro Pascal and Cousin from The Bear are going to star in the reboot of the reboot of the Fantastic Four reboot? (movies)

Tastemaker: Kyle Chayka on the art of developing personal style in an age when algorithms loom over aesthetics and culture. (podcast)

Word games: New dictionary word drop highlights include "girl dinner," "the ick," "mid," and "range anxiety," which is defined as the apprehension or fear that an electric vehicle’s battery will run out of power before reaching one’s intended destination or a charging station. (news)

Love bomb: Did you know the history of Valentine's Day started as a feast celebrating a decapitation? Now it's about flowers, circling a yes, no, or maybe and candy that has the consistency of chalk. (history)

Job Site

It's a new year and we need new job submissions! Catch wind of an open preconstruction role? Fill out our job post submission form for a chance for the posting to be featured in a future edition of The SLAB.

Until next time,


*Slabster? Slabber? Slabberwocky? We're workshopping names for you, bear with us. If you have a good idea, please reply to this email and let us know.

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